The most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property.Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society.Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination, A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views.
This assault on the Founders, subtle at first, began in earnest almost 100 years ago. It was a product of self-interest that should be interpreted loosely and changed as the Progressives saw fit.
The first historian to challenge the motives of the Founders was Charles Beard in (1913). The constitutional separation of powers, for example, according to Woodrow Wilson—a friend of Beard’s and a fellow Ph. in history—was a “grievous mistake” by the Founders.
A large propertyless mass was, under the prevailing suffrage qualifications, excluded at the outset from participation (through representatives) in the work of framing the Constitution.
The members of the Philadelphia Convention which drafted the Constitution were, with a few exceptions, immediately, directly, and personally interested in, and derived economic advantages from, the establishment of the new system.
The protection of these faculties in the first object of government.
From the protection of different and unequal faculties of acquiring property, the possession of different degrees and kinds of property immediately results; and from the influence of these on the sentiments and views of the respective proprietors, ensues a division of society into different interests and parties…
Suppose it could be shown from the classification of the men who supported and opposed the Constitution that there was no line of property division at all; that is, that men owning substantially the same amounts of the same kinds of property where equally divided on the matter of adoption or rejection–it would then become apparent that the Constitution had no ascertainable relation to economic groups or classes, but was the product of some abstract causes remote from the chief business of life–gaining a livelihood.
Suppose, on the other hand, that substantially all of the merchants, money lenders, security holders, manufacturers, shippers, capitalists, and financiers and their professional associates are to be found on one side in support of the Constitution and that substantially all or the major portion of the opposition came from the non-slaveholding farmers and the debtors–would it not be pretty conclusively demonstrated that our fundamental law was not the product of an abstraction known as “the whole people,” but of a group of economic interests which must have expected beneficial results from its adoption?
Thus, according to Beard, the constitutional convention in Philadelphia in 1787 was promoted by “a small and active group of men immediately interested through their personal possessions in the outcome of their labors. During the 1950s, historian Forrest Mc Donald did a more thorough study of the Founders and discovered what can most generously be described as errors in research and, less generously, as fraudulent research.
Each state had to vote on ratifying the Constitution, and Beard offered evidence that “the leaders who supported the Constitution in the ratifying conventions represented the same economic groups as the members of the Philadelphia convention.” The Founders, Beard conceded, did not write the Constitution merely to make money, but nonetheless, “The Constitution was essentially an economic document.” Beard’s thesis, seemingly well researched, was presented in a tentative way, but it soon swept the historical profession and became gospel in college classrooms by the 1920s.